Many islanders are preparing to head to the Alps for their dose of winter skiing as France announced it will lift its ban on Channel Island and UK tourists from today.
The country’s Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne made the announcement yesterday adding that those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter France if they have evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure.
A requirement to isolate on arrival is also due to be scrapped. However, it is understood that those who are not fully vaccinated will have to have a ‘compelling reason’ to travel and need to quarantine for ten days.
In the UK, the isolation period will be cut from 7 to 5 days from Monday providing anyone with Covid receive negative lateral flow tests on days 5 and 6. This is another step to boost businesses and public services as thousands of workers have not been able to work despite many having no symptoms.
Medical evidence also suggests that it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted to others after 3 or 4 days.
Locally it was announced that Islanders who have recovered from a confirmed Covid infection within the past 28 days will not be classed as direct contacts under new rules. Nor will they have to take a PCR test on arrival at the border if they are not fully vaccinated.
Under the Safer Travel Policy, passengers who declare and can evidence testing positive in the 28 days before arrival will not be required to have a PCR test on arrival and isolate until a negative result.
The policy remains that passengers who have tested positive in the preceding ten days or have Covid-19 symptoms, must not travel to Jersey.
Deputy medical officer for health Dr Ivan Muscat said: ‘Returning to the 28-day clear period for those who have recovered from a confirmed positive Covid-19 infection, as we did early last summer, is appropriate and in line with our current understanding of the situation in Jersey.‘
This change will reduce the risk of inactive viruses leading to unnecessary disruption at the border and on-Island and best reflects our understanding of Omicron’s increased dominance in the UK and Jersey, as well as our further understanding of the protection afforded by natural infection and recovery from the previous variants which predominated more than 28 days ago.
In Jersey, the number of known Covid cases looks to have peaked as numbers fell for the third day in succession from over 4,000 earlier in the week to 3,320 today. There are currently 24 islanders in hospital with the virus but very few in intensive care.
On the vaccination front, all Islanders aged 12 and over will now be able to walk into Fort Regent to get their COVID-19 vaccines without a booked appointment until the end of January. First, second and booster vaccinations are available for walk-in and booked appointments.
There is free parking at the top of Fort Regent for those who are going to the Vaccination Centre and there is also a free shuttle bus that departs every 20 minutes from the Bus Station.
Islanders are reminded to bring ID, wear a face mask at the Vaccination Centre and are encouraged to have a negative Lateral Flow Test result before attending.
Rock Up clinics administering first, second and booster doses for healthcare staff only will take place at the General Hospital. This follows feedback from staff to make it more convenient and will ensure that frontline staff in this higher-risk setting are up to date with their vaccination schedule.
Head of the Vaccination Programme, Emma Baker, said: “I am pleased that the team have been able to extend the offer of walk-in appointments to Islanders. We have increased capacity at the Centre to accommodate more Islanders who are coming for their primary doses and boosters. Yesterday The Council of Ministers agreed to a temporary restriction of visitors to Jersey’s General Hospital Adult and Mental Health Wards”.
This follows an update from senior clinical colleagues in Health and Community Services who reported that several inpatients in the hospital have tested positive for Covid-19 after a very small number of visitors came in with symptoms.
The temporary restrictions were introduced yesterday and will be reviewed after a week.
Exceptions will be in place for people receiving end of life care, Maternity and SCBU and other special circumstances. Anyone who feels they have special circumstances can call the relevant ward and speak to the ward manager.
The restrictions will apply to all adult wards in the General Hospital, and Mental Health Wards based at St Saviour. Adult patients attending the Emergency Department will need to go alone, and children can have one adult with them.
And finally, on a positive note, it’s official, Jersey has retained the title as the sunniest place in the British Isles following the release of weather data for 2021.
A total of 2,331 hours of sunshine during the year put the island well ahead of second-place Preston, in Dorset which recorded the second-highest tally, and also more than 400 hours ahead of our sister island, Guernsey.
Confirmation of the 2021 data was welcomed by Visit Jersey which has used weather-related information as part of its marketing campaign in recent years.
Visit Jersey Chief Executive Amanda Burns said “We are delighted with the news that Jersey is the sunniest spot in the British Isles for the fourth year running.
The FTSE 100 was down at 7,550 today, after reaching its highest level yesterday, since January 2020.
US futures are pointing to 0.6% declines for the Dow Jones and S&P 500, with the tech-powered Nasdaq seen dropping 0.75%.
In the European market, France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX were down 0.6%.
Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Japan leading the region. The Nikkei 225 is down 1.28% while China’s Shanghai Composite is off 0.96% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is lower by 0.19%.
UK economy finally improving
According to the ONS, the British economy grew by a considerably stronger-than-expected 0.9% in November, ultimately surpassing its size right before the country entered its first COVID-19 lockdown. It was 0.7% larger than it was in February 2020.
“It’s amazing to see the size of the economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November – a testament to the grit and determination of the British people,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said.
Despite November’s increase in growth, GDP is likely to have taken a hit in December as the Omicron coronavirus strain swept through Europe. The loss of momentum is likely to have continued into January, with many enterprises reporting severe staff absenteeism and consumers still hesitant to go out.
However, health experts believe the Omicron infection wave has already peaked in the UK, while analysts believe the economic impact will be short-lived, allowing the Bank of England to continue raising interest rates this year.
According to the ONS, architects, merchants, couriers, and accountants enjoyed a record month in November. Construction is also recovering from a string of bad months as raw materials became easier to obtain, following the disruptions in global supply chains that were experienced earlier.
Although, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce has said: “While the UK economy should rebound once Plan B measures are lifted, surging inflation and persistent supply chain disruption may mean that the UK’s economic growth prospects remain under pressure for much of 2022”.
UK Facebookers to sue Meta
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is being sued for £2.3 billion in a class-action lawsuit alleging that 44 million Facebook users in the United Kingdom had their data misused after signing up for the social network.
The action claims that Meta violated the 1998 Competition Act by charging Facebook’s UK users an “unfair price” for access to the service. The complaint, filed by legal expert Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, claims that the price for using Facebook, which does not charge its users, is handing over personal data, which accounts for the majority of the company’s revenue.
Call for Jersey businesses to trial short work week
According to Assistant Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel, businesses in Jersey should experiment with a four-day week. He feels that a shorter workweek could assist in improving employee engagement and welfare and that it is the next step for businesses to consider after many have already implemented flexible working from home.
The Spanish government said last year that it will test a four-day workweek, while research undertaken in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 indicated that trials of a shorter week resulted in increased production and better employee welfare.
Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said it was ‘not currently on the agenda’ but was likely to be a ‘topic of conversation in the future economy work’.
Deputy Morel said: ‘I would encourage businesses to experiment with a four-day working week and look at different ideas. The pandemic has made people look at the way they work, what suits them and I think the next step for some employers will be to look at working the same hours but in fewer days.
‘From the studies I have seen, the results have shown that it could help increase motivation, productivity and boost staff welfare.’ He added: ‘I know this will not work for some industries and so this would always be on a case-by-case basis rather than introducing government legislation.’